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Alan 12, Cathy 7, Tull 6, Jeff Smith 5, Francis Tull 4, Brenda Simpson 3, Tempur-pedic 3, Patterson 3, Harvey 3, Orende Patterson 3, Rosalind Brown 3, Roslyn 2, Medicare 2, California 2, America 2, Bill Clinton 2, Us 2, Michigan 2, Montel Pettiford 2, Gerald 2,
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  NBC    Dateline NBC    News/Business.  
   Investigative journalism. (CC) (Stereo)  

    September 20, 2010
    2:00 - 3:00am PDT  

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forgotten in a fading file, a killer waits to be caught. a case waits to be cracked. >> they were the final moments with her young son. >> i love you, mom. >> i love you, too. >> his body, later found in the river. had he found trouble while fishing? she didn't buy it. >> i knew that whoever did this i had trusted my son with. >> he didn't either. >> first thing you'd have took was your fishing pole. he didn't. >> years went by with no arrests, yet he made a vow. >> it was murder and he would
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prove it. >> she kept the faith despite some outrageous theories. >> they asked if he drank. he's 11 years old. >> right. >> but could he keep his promise and find out what really happened to her son? >> i blamed myself for a long time because i let him go. >> a mother's mission to learn the truth. to hear that, what did it feel like for you finally? tonight, the case of the little boy lost. good evening and welcome to "dateline." i'm ann curry. more than two decades ago a smart, loving little boy suddenly disappeared. his body was found about three weeks later. despite an investigation plagued by missed opportunities and shaky witnesses the truth about what happened to him finally did come out and the moment you meet the boy's mother, you will understand why.
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>> flint, michigan where the steely flint river winds through the heart of car country. where on a beautiful spring day more than 20 years ago one little boy mysteriously vanished. how? why? years passed. decades. the water kept its secret. memory faded and evidence disappeared until all that was left was one mother's lost and her fragmented dreams of her child calling her, haunting her, pushing her to find the truth about what happened to him. when christopher alan brown was born in november, 1973, his mother, brenda, could not have been happier. was it love right away? >> oh, yeah. i just loved him with all my heart.
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>> brenda thought her baby looked especially good in yellow. >> he brought so much joy into my life. >> when alan was 1 brenda separated from his father and they later divorced. in 1978 she married an auto worker named harvey who says he was submmitten with her little . >> when i fell in love with her i fell in love with him. just as much my son and hers. i helped raise him and mold him into the little man we hoped he would become. >> alan excelled at school and sports. he loved pac man, fishing, and listening to his favorite songs. both brenda and harvey had good jobs on the assembly line at general motors. alan had one little brother and another on the way. alan's father justin brown had also remarried to a woman named roslyn and they had two little girls. >> these sort of blended families where there is divorce it's kind of complicated who
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gets to see the children when. >> i was going to have primary custody and he had visitation. >> justin's sister said alan was close to his dad. >> loved spending time with his father on weekends or during school breaks. >> but the relationship between brenda and alan's step mom was tense. >> they didn't like each other at all but brenda would always let alan come over to his dad's house and spend time with him. she would never keep him back from his dad. >> in 1985 alan was 11 when easter rolled around. brenda was surprised when he told her he did not want to spend the week at his father's as they had planned. >> his dad kept calling him. then he told him i'm going to take you camping and fishing those were the magic words for your son right? >> yes. he packed up all his stuff. he was happy. he came over and hugged me and says, i love you, mom. >> that is the last you saw of
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him was that day? >> yes. >> that was monday. on friday, brenda came home late and was alarmed to find her sisters waiting on her front porch. >> i rolled the window wrong. what's wrong? i know something is wrong for them to be at my house at 11:00. >> her sister said alan was missing and it was like, how can that be? missing from what? missing how? he's supposed to be with his dad. >> brenda called alan's father demanding to know what happened. he explained what he knew, that he and alan had not yet gone fishing and while he was at work that day his wife roslyn was home with the kids. she said at some point she bought mcdonald's, put it in the kitchen, told the children to go and eat and left. when she returned home a few hours later alan was missing. she looked for him around the neighborhood then called police. >> all i care about right now is finding alan.
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>> while police launched an investigation brenda and her relatives organized a neighborhood search party. >> we went door to door, talking to people, showing his picture. asking anyone if they seen him. everyone was saying no. >> sergeant francis tull had almost no training as an investigator but suddenly found himself in charge of a major case. >> i get there and i start talking to the officers to find out what they had come up with. >> sergeant tull's first thought was run away or possible kidnapping and so the fbi was called in. tull says they worked together. every lead went nowhere. you probably put together a profile of this child. who was that boy in your mind's eye? >> a missing, scared little boy. and we needed to find him. >> days passed with no sign of alan. frantic for help brenda did
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something she would do again and again in the years to come. she called the local newspaper. the coverage reporter jeff smith was sent to her house. >> you could tell she was just drained but this was something she was determined to do. i have to find my child this story was one of jeff's first front page bylines but did not bring brenda any closer to her son. one week passed. brenda appeared on local tv. >> he wouldn't leave for no reason. he just wouldn't get in the car with anybody. somebody had to take him. >> you must have had a lot of conversations with god during these really difficult days. what were you asking for, praying for? praying to get my baby back. but after about 17, 18 days -- >> what were you praying for then? i prayed the lord would give me
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his body so i could bury him. >> on april 30th, 18 days after alan disappeared, sergeant tull expanded his search efforts to include this peaceful bend in the flint river three miles from alan's father's home. by noon word came they had found a body. brenda's sad prayer had come true. >> with the clothing description, deep down you knew, you know, just your heart starts sinking. >> reporter jeff smith raced to the scene. >> you could see law enforcement people out there with the tarp and the body bag. it was just very quiet, kind of solemn. >> what did you lose that day? >> a big chunk out of my heart. i lost all my dreams that i had for him. >> brenda's grief was overwhelming but so were her questions. alan was not the type of child to wander off.
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why had he been at the river and how did he get there? discovering his body was just the beginning of a mystery that would haunt her for decades. >> it didn't make sense. none of it made sense. because if he wouldn't have went out there without permission, none of this was adding up. >> coming up, the investigation begins and tips pour in about alan going off with a stranger, one resembling a known serial killer. >> how did they describe the guy? >> white male, in his 30s. >> alan couldn't tell her what happened but what about a witness? >> she gives you a statement and basically said that she saw rosalind plying this kid with alcohol. did that set off alarm bells with you? had a key piece of evidence slipped through the cracks? when "cracked, the case of the little boy lost" continues. [ woman ] nine iron, it's almost tee-time...
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[ male announcer ] we asked zyrtec® users what they love about their allergy relief, and what it lets them do. the thing i love most about zyrtec® is that it allows me to be outside. [ male announcer ] we bet you'll love zyrtec®, too -- or it's free. [ vonetta ] it is countdown to marshmallow time. [ woman laughs ] 11-year-old alan brown was buried on may 6th, 1985. >> it was standing room only at that church. all his little friends were there and flowers. >> it looked like a terrible accident. alan could not swim. somehow he must have wandered over to the river and fallen in. a routine autopsy concluded the
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boy had died from accidental drowning. but that was not the end of it. >> came to me and asked me, did he drink? >> i said drink. >> he was 11 years old. the autopsy report came back with results that were highly unusual. his blood alcohol level was 0.15 twice the level considered legally drunk for an adult. then there was a second reading, 0.07 for isopropol or rubbing alcohol. the investigator in charge sergeant francis tull said he argued with the medical examiner to change the cause of death to homicide but the m.e. refused. >> he felt that the young boy got into the parents' liquor cabinet or got with some friends
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and they had alcohol. >> despite that ruling tull said anne the fbi continued to investigate starting with conversations with family members like alan's step mother, rosalind. >> rosalind, you are aware this interview is being taped, is that correct? >> yes. >> he was swamped with tips, most of them useless, and with reports from people saying they had seen alan get into a car. >> we had several vehicles, white van, green pickup truck that people said he seemed to be getting into. how did they describe -- >> white male in his 30s. >> that description matched a serial killer on the loose in nearby troit who forced you-- d forced young boys to drink alcohol, raped, and then killed them but tull couldn't prove the man had been in flint. were you thinking it was a stranger? >> i never ruled that out but my most focus was on it had to be somebody he knew. >> meantime, brenda was wrestling with her own suspicions and doubts. she had begun to wonder about alan's resistance to visiting
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his father and step mother rosalind that day. what had she missed? what did he tell you about the visits? >> most of the time he would talk about spending time with his dad but as he got older he started acting a little different. a little strange. >> he would come in and be kind of down, a little depressed. we'd ask him what's wrong and he'd say nothing. we used to call it over to my daddy's house syndrome and it would pass and by next day he'd be back to normal. >> in her mind brenda replayed over and over rosalind's story about what happened the day alan disappeared. >> she said she went to mcdonald's and got food and when she got back home she was in a hurry to go to this job interview so she took the food in the house and she came back out and told alan to go ahead and go in. >> for brenda the story just didn't make sense. alan loved mcdonald's, she said. and, more importantly, she just
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couldn't believe he would have wandered three miles away to the river. >> alan wasn't that type of child. he didn't go anywhere without permission. >> you didn't like her anyway, did you? >> no. i didn't like how she treated my son and he was so loving and caring and all he wanted to do was please people. >> how come you didn't call your ex-husband and say what's going on? >> well, i did. >> what did he say? >> he thought i was psycho. he thought i was the one that was psycho, i just needed someone to blame and didn't want to accept it the reporter at the "flint journal" had his own questions about rosalind's story. he had gone to visit her for an interview a few days after alan's body was found. >> she just stood and kind of blocked the doorway. the entire time i spoke to her she never looked me in the eye. >> he wandered about what rosalind wasn't saying. >> i just knew there was something that she knew something. even brenda said she thought maybe they went down to the river, he fell in, and she panicked, and so she was trying to cover up the fact that she was down at the river side.
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>> sergeant tull had little more than the reporter did, rumors, hunches, suspicions. he was very short on the facts. >> other than the toxicology showing alcohol in the system there was no evidence. >> alan's case was in a kind of limbo, classified as an accident and yet not officially closed. as the weeks and the months go on, did it sort of start moving back on the priority list? >> i had no support from anybody on that particular case because, quote, it was ruled an accidental drowning. >> five months after alan disappeared, brenda gave birth to her third son. by now she was totally preoccupied with finding out what had happened to alan, saving everything important to him in a small, blue suitcase. she also began unannounced visits to the police. so every time you show up two or three times a week on the phone, what are they telling you repeatedly? >> that they're investigating
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it. >> what had once been holidays on brenda's calendar were now rituals of mourning -- sad visits to alan's grave on his birthday and the anniversary of his death. often brenda would play his music, take out his pictures, and cry. >> i didn't know how to chase that pain away that she was enduring. i didn't know what to do. >> four years after alan's death the gm plant where brenda worked closed. there was no new information on what had happened to alan. living in flint had become painful. >> in my gut i knew that whoever did this i had trusted my son with. alan didn't go anywhere with strangers. i believed someone did something to him and i believed it was really, really close and i couldn't live here and not know who that person was. >> the family packed up and
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moved to california, and there alan began to haunt brenda in her dreams. >> it was like he was trying to give me a sign. i said, tell me what happened. tell me what happened. and just he would get ready to tell me and i would wake up. >> alan couldn't tell her what happened but what about a witness? >> she gave you a statement and basically said she saw rosalind plying this kid with alcohol. did that set off alarm bells with you? >> had a key piece of evidence slipped through the cracks? but how? he started with talking to one of the last people to see alan alive. >> i blamed myself for a long time because i let him go. when
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cases get cold. this one was ice cold. i mean, it was ice cold. >> yes. >> did it ever like kind of resurface over the years or did it stay pretty much dormant? >> for the most part, it sat on the corner of my desk so i would never forget it. >> now living in california, brenda simpson periodically visited flint, usually around april 12th, the day her son alan disappeared in 1985. using the media to stir up publicity for alan's case. she appeared on tv with lead investigator sergeant francis tull, around 1990. >> i'm hoping that with this interview here that maybe someone that didn't want to talk five years ago will, you know, decide to come forward. >> and then again by herself a few years later.
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>> ain't going to give up. >> jeff smith had now been a reporter with "the flint journal" for nearly a decade. >> she called me out of the blue. >> brenda had come to flint to post flyers seeking information about her son. >> i said of course i'll do something. i kind of thought after all these years it was probably slim to no chance of them getting any new information but there was no way i was going to tell a mother to give up hope of ever finding out what happened to her child. i can't do that as always, brenda called the cops. >> the girls that answered the phone would say, hold on, brenda. just a minute, brenda. >> it's brenda. what am i going to say to her? >> what did you say? >> i know, brenda. i'm trying. something to that effect. were you always telling the truth when you said "i'm trying?" >> yes, yes. i never stopped trying. >> brenda didn't either. in part she says because in her
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dreams alan would never let her rest. >> he never aged. he was still 11 just like when he left. it wasn't like he was in any pain. it was just a drive in the dream to keep pushing. >> brenda tried to focus on her two surviving sons, her husband, and her job. years passed, and her sons grew up and left home. the little boy in her dreams became harder to ignore. >> i knew what he was pushing me to do. he was pushing me to come back to michigan. >> and so in 2002, 17 years after alan's death, brenda and harvey moved back to flint. brenda retraced her well worn path to alan's grave. she quit work so she could concentrate full-time on finding out what had happened to her son. she called the police department. she says she didn't hear back so she called again and again. >> now they're trying to dodge my phone calls. they're not answering. >> sergeant tull says he gave
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brenda all of his phone numbers -- work, cell, and home and always returned her calls. but brenda still felt she wasn't being heard. she says she finally left him an angry voice mail. i'm coming to put a tent up outside your door and no one else is coming in until you deal with me. >> brenda says that got his attention and he finally called back. she asked him to bring alan's case file to her house including the autopsy photos which she wanted to look at for the very first time. >> got to see it in my mind and know that's my child. >> the photos were devastating. but brenda found something else in the file that changed her mind about the entire investigation. this statement taken from a woman claiming to have seen alan's step mother rosalind and her brother forcing alan to drink alcohol and sexually abusing him in the months before he died. the woman also said she overheard them boast about
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forcing alan to walk the plank. >> walk the plank was the term that was used in this statement. >> that was sitting right in the file the whole time. >> yeah. ever since may of '85. >> sergeant tull is the person who conducted the 1985 interview with that woman. when we asked him about it he had only a vague recollection of that statement and the woman who had given it 20 years earlier. >> she comes to the station, gives you a statement, and basically said she saw rosalind plying this kid with alcohol. did that set off alarm bells with you? >> yeah. if that was the case there had to be more to it. we would have definitely focused on that. >> tull says he and the fbi followed up on a lot of allegations at the time of alan's death. none of them led anywhere. but brenda could not believe that statement had sat untouched for all of those years. >> i had to tell him, i says, what are we going to do? i don't want him to know how
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upset i am. >> you're trying to be calm. >> i am trying to be calm because i know i got to do something. so he tells me, well i'm going to take it back and have more people look at it. okay. >> by this time brenda was completely disillusioned with tull and his efforts. but it no longer mattered. tull retired and the case was assigned to a new detective who asked her to be patient. soon, she says, he, too, was dodging her calls. >> so it gave you more fire. >> right. whenever they told me no, it made me fight harder. >> once again, brenda turned to reporter jeff smith at the "flint journal." >> called me up again, didn't have to identify herself because i recognized her voice. >> jeff went to brenda's house and looked through the files. >> that just really kind of shook her world. when she saw the notes. she just knew at that point that the police had really boggled the case, really dropped the ball there. >> he wrote this article published on the 19th
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anniversary of alan's death saying brenda was threatening to turn up the pressure on police and to start singing about the specifics of the case if authorities did not make headway soon. the next day, 9:00 a.m. sharp, came a call from the police department asking brenda to come in to talk. and there she met the man who would become her hero. >> you smile when you say his name. >> he was the first person who would listen to me and it didn't take him very long to tell me that it was murder and he would prove it. >> but how? he'd start by talking with one of the last people to see alan alive. >> i blame myself for a long time because i let him go. >> rosalind's story finally comes out. >> to hear that, what did that feel like for you finally? >> when "cracked, the caves tse
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19 years have passed by the time detective gerald parks took over the investigation into the death of alan brown. parks was retired and worked as an adviser to the flint cold case squad for a dollar a month. >> let's be clear. every month for all your work you get paid $1? >> right. a month. >> a month. >> at the end of the year i get
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a little better than $11 because uncle sam is going to get his share. how you doing? >> you're looking mighty good. >> brenda says parks did something no one else had done -- listened to her and included her in the investigation. >> he started piecing it together, calling me, asking me about people, all this stuff that's been in here. >> detective parks began by digging into the little blue suitcase brenda had filled over the years with information about alan. >> she had amazingly a lot of stuff that really helped us in our case. >> parks said right away he agreed this was no accidental drowning. >> you're about river from the you were going to go fishing and you're a young, 11-year-old boy, the first thing you'd have took was your fishing pole. he didn't. >> i'll start with friday and we'll go from there. >> parks reviewed the case files. he constructed a timeline for the day alan disappeared,
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starting with the moment his step mom, rosalind, picked him up at his aunt's house. >> he was with his aunt the day that he was -- he disappeared. we talked to the aunt. she is very, very good. >> rosalind came to pick him up. >> "dateline" also talked to alan's aunt. she remembers quite clearly what happened when rosalind picked him up that afternoon. >> he was just crying and bawling his eyes out. didn't want to go with her. and it was like she was forcing him to get into the car. i've never seen him act like that before. he was beating on the back of the window screaming and hollering, aunt jeannie, please don't let me go. eventually they drove away. >> he had an intuition he was in trouble. he felt there was something wrong. you know, that he wasn't liked. he wasn't wanted. and he had a fear. >> i blamed myself for a long time because i let him go and if i had let him stay maybe -- >> parks' interest in rosalind
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increased. he studied the statement she had made in 1985 and brought her in for questioning. the story she told him now was very different from what she had said back then. times changed, facts changed, very basic facts. in 1985 she said her mother was at work. >> wint i went to get my mother. she got out at 2:42 and now? >> your mother was with you? mm-hmm. >> she wasn't working at that time? >> no. >> you sure? >> mm-hmm. >> you can't remember a lie. you can remember things you do and forever and ever because it's something you actually did. but when you try to remember a lie, it's very difficult. >> and then there was this. the statement from the woman claiming to have seen rosalind and her brother, montel pettiford force alan to drink and then sexually molest him in the months before his death.
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when parks tracked her down, she provided him with a bigger tip, saying a woman named cathy, who had been married to montel, may actually have seen whatever happened that day. >> so one of the goals was to find whoever this cathy person was. >> that wasn't easy because cathy had left the state and she wasn't easy to find. >> jegerry found her. >> parks and his investigators finally found cathy in north carolina and interviewed her in the fall of 2004. what she told them would be the first major crack in the case. for the first time cathy told what she had seen the day alan disappeared. she was now divorced from montel but back in 1985 they were living here at this house in flint. cathy said she was feeding her infant son when montel and
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rosalind came into her house supporting alan between them. >> had to help him in the house. >> cathy said the two brought alan into the spare bedroom. next montel came into the kitchen carrying a small, brown bottle with a skull and cross bones on it. >> he just opened the bottle and put it in there. >> what did he put it in, do you remember? >> she said montel poured clear liquid from the bottle into some grape kool-aid and also into the eggs given to christopher alan. >> he went in and he had this and did you see chris drink this? >> yes, chris drank this. >> why had she kept this horrible secret all of these years? cathy said montel frequently beat her and on that day he held up the small bottle of poison and told her that if she told anyone she and her baby would be next. parks called rosalind back in saying he now had an eyewitness implicating her and he threatened her with prison for
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life if she didn't start talking. >> i knew from day one. >> coming up, rosalind's story finally comes out. to hear that, what did that feel like for you, finally? but would it bring the justice she so badly wanted? >> i just -- i just broke down. >> when "cracked, the case of the little boy lost" continues.
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i did not do it. >> i got an eyewitness. >> they lying. >> in november, 2004, retired detective gerald parks brought rosalind brown in yet again to discuss the death of her 11-year-old step son, alan. this time he had something he hadn't had before -- incriminating, eyewitness testimony placing her at the scene. >> they are lying. i did not do none of that. >> parks and his investigators pushed. >> what choice do you have here, going to prison the rest of your life? >> after more than four hours of interrogation rosalind admitted she and her brother montel had taken alan to the river that day but blamed his death on her brother. >> i took montel to the river. he threw him in. i didn't see him. i didn't touch him. i never touched the boy. and i went home. now you talk to montel. he's going to say i did it.
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go ahead. i'll be a witness, whatever you want me to do. just please. >> after all of these years you learned that your son was in fact poisoned and it looks like your ex-husband's wife may be responsible. to hear that, what did that feel like for you finally? >> i was right all the time. that's what it felt like. it felt like i was right all the time. >> detective parks now had the big break he needed, enough evidence to get court permission to exhume the little boy's body to get a new autopsy and finally have alan's death classified as a homicide. he took all of that to the district attorney. >> we think we know what happened. we think it was a homicide. and we think we know who did it. but that's still not enough. >> in may of 2005, stating there simply was not enough evidence for a conviction, the district
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attorney declined to indict rosalind brown and her brother montel. for the past three months, simpson says she has waited, hoping an arrest warrant would be issued, but late last week she learned her dreams of closing the case once and for all would have to wait a little longer. >> felt like somebody kicked me in my gut. i was so devastated i got on the couch and i laid on the couch for two days. i didn't hardly eat or drink anything. finally after a couple days i get up off the couch and i said, pick yourself up. we have one more fight left in you. and i told my husband and we go downtown and i start the process of trying to get to the attorney general's office. i'm not taking no for an answer. >> the da tells you no you go to the attorney general. there is someone else. >> yes. another door to kick open. >> and behind that door was a young assistant attorney general orende patterson who found 22 years of accumulated evidence
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now squarely in his lap. >> first thought was it's not going to go anywhere. it's not going to result in any charges. going to make an honest effort of going through the box, review it, writing a memorandum stating why. couldn't do it the prosecutor had not counted on brenda. >> nothing in this world was going to stop her from pursuing this. that was her son. >> she called him weekly, sometimes daily. his updates gradually convinced her he was taking alan's case seriously. soon she confided that her son was still haunting her in her dreams. >> she is still coming. >> saying the same kind of thing? >> yes. but i'm feeling like i'm on the right track. >> in april, 2006, brenda
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released 21 balloons, one for each year alan had been dead. patterson wasn't sure he had enough evidence to prosecute. so much depended on eyewitness cathy pettiford and ever since that day in 1985 she had been in and out of mental institutions. as a witness she was less than ideal. >> i would just go over and over again what cathy had to say. i wondered whether she was telling me the truth or whether she was making this up. >> to see for himself the prosecutor conducted a series of interviews with cathy and she would later say at a hearing the day alan disappeared she saw montel and rosalind give him poisoned kool-aid and eggs and then saw them come out of the bedroom with the boy whom she called chris in montel's arms. >> was chris conscious at that time? >> no. >> did he say anything? >> no. >> was his body moving at all? >> no. >> cathy said rosalind and
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montel left and when they returned their shoes and pant legs were muddy. >> did montel say something to you? >> he was crying. >> the prosecutor decided that even with cathy's history of mental illness she would hold up on the stand. her testimony was crucial. >> the scientific evidence helped her. she helped the scientific evidence. >> for patterson and for detective parks there was one last looming question. why? >> to poison a little boy by pouring poison in his scrambled eggs seems so outrageous and preposterous that you wonder why someone would do that. what do you think is the motive here? >> well, there's a lot of jealousy. a lot of jealousy. >> but both investigator gerry parks and prosecutor orende patterson have another theory. they say it is possible alan had
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been sexually abused by rosalind and montel and he was about to tell his mother. if that was the case they killed him not out of jealousy but to protect themselves. in may of 2007 patterson charged rosalind and montel with first-degree murder. he says it was gratifying to give brenda the news. >> she was very happy. happy is an understatement as to how she felt. >> there was a lot of hip, hip, hurrah. you know? >> all of a sudden it seemed like the trees are greener. the grass is greener. i knew they had the right people. all i could say was "thank you, jesus." thank you, gerry. >> after 22 long years, brenda simpson was about to have her day in court. but would it bring the justice she so badly wanted? >> i just broke down.
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>> not one witness said they ever saw her even spank this child. the closing argument was how do you get from not even disciplining him with physical punishment to a plot to poison and murder him and throw him in the river? it doesn't make sense. it's a beautiful day inside when you use lysol neutra air fabric mist. it kills 99.9% of bacteria on soft surfaces and eliminates odors at their source better than febreze. so now a fresh home is the sign of a healthy home. for tips on a healthy home, visit lysol.com/missionforhealth.
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august of 2008, brenda simpson's decades-long battle for justice for her son alan was nearing an end. alan's step mother rosalind brown and her brother montel pettiford were about to be tried for murder. >> it was just like a hundred
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pounds was lifted off of me. i been walking around with these two bricks. but i can't put them down. i got to keep going. goit to keep going. >> prosecutor orende patterson lined up what he hoped was a strong case -- a toxicology report showing alcohol in alan's blood, an eyewitness, and rosalind's own statement that she and montel brought alan to the river that day. still, he worried it wasn't enough. >> we could lose this case so i was mindful of that from the very beginning. >> mark latchana believed his client was innocent. so you believe alan died of accidental drowning? correct. >> she was an unlikely murder defendant. >> you know, the majority of my clients are not women in their mid 50s. meeting her, she talked about her grand kids and her kids and
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her career and her husband. >> rosalind's lawyer set out to debunk the toxicology report. he called in an expert who cited studies showing the alcohol in alan's blood could have been created naturally. a normal by product of a body decomposing in the water. when it came to witness cathy pettiford he questioned how anyone with her history of mental illness could accurately remember what happened one day 20 years earlier. >> poison out of a skull and cross bones bottle? i had never seen that in anything other than bugs bunny or cartoons as for rosalind's admission that she and montel had been down at the water that day with alan her lawyer believed that was coerced by the police. >> the statement came at the end of about four and a half hours of an interview with one detective and the statement was made after various different threats were made to her, threats of spend the rest of your life in prison, threats to
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be prosecuted. >> and the defense had one big advantage -- motive. in court the prosecution never brought up any allegations of sexual abuse and rosalind's lawyer argued there was no compelling reason for rosalind to kill the little boy. does your client have a history of violence? none. in fact, not one witness ever said they saw her even spank this child. and so the argument in closing argument was how do you get from not even disciplining him with physical punishment to a plot to poison and murder him and put him in the river? it doesn't make sense. >> eight days of testimony, two days of jury deliberations, then for both defendants a one word verdict. guilty. >> guilty in the first degree. >> it sounded good hearing it. i just -- i just broke down.
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it was like a floodgate opened. >> you couldn't help but cry. you would think after all these years, after all this suffering, after all this pleading, we finally got the justice alan deserves. >> the prosecutor was 13 when alan died. >> a long time coming wasn't it? >> a long time coming. >> alan's father, jestine brown, stayed married to rosalind all those years and attended court every day. reporter jeff smith now in the insurance business also attended the trial. >> we just really kept it out there and kind of put pressure on the court system to see this through. >> in part, brenda blames these original investigators, sergeant francis tull, saying she would not have needed media pressure if he had done his job early on. tull says he was hampered by the medical examiner's finding that alan's death was accidental and says this case was always in his heart.
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>> if she were sitting in this seat instead of me, what would you say to her? >> i'd tell her i'm sorry. that i did not do this for her. >> that is not something you hear every day. sergeant tull testified at the trial and spoke to brenda briefly afterwards. >> she said she was disappointed and i said so was i, at myself. >> takes a pretty big guy to say that. >> well, it's the truth. i didn't solve the case for her. i should have focused on rosalind moore. i should have picked up maybe that extra piece. >> brenda will never get the years back she spent fighting for alan but at long last her crusade is over. >> happy birthday. >> did you ever hear from alan in your dreams after? >> no.
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it's like he's at peace now. >> time has finally washed away some of the pain caused on the banks of the flint river and one extraordinarily devoted mother has released the last balloon in memory of herself. >> i think 9 out of 10 women after 15, 16 years, probably would have stopped. >> i couldn't stop. i had to do it for alan. >> i love him. i love him. and i just didn't think he deserved to die like that. so i had to fight for him. and no one else could do it but me. no one else was going to care like i cared. no one was going to push like i was going to push. so i had to do it.
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>> i'm ann curry. for all of us herehere at nbc n good night. this sunday a political earthquake in delaware. the end of a turbulent primary season. is the tea party the present and future of the gop? what impact will candidates like christine o'donnell and backers like sarah palin have on the mid-term election and the party's prospects for 2012? plus, the antimuslim back lash in the country. ongoing wars in afghanistan and iraq. how has america's role in the world changed? we'll ask our exclusive guest, secretary of state to president george w. bush, general colin powell. then another leader on the world stage, president bill clinton prepares to host his sixth annual clinton global initiative meeting hosting key leaders to
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tackle the world's most pressing topics. plus, what's ahead for democrats in november. can't president obama turn things around? and the future of the economy. our conversation with former president bill clinton. good morning. social conservative activists gathered this weekend in washington for their annual values voters summit, attracting a field of potential candidates. winning the straw poll for president, sarah palin finished fifth but did not opt to attend a keynote event, where she has rallied behind tea party candidates, leaving the establishment reeling. mid-term primaries are over and the tea party

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